On nearly everyone’s instagram, there’s the classic “ wish I was here instead of studying” throwback travel photo (guilty). Most people post that photo, get another coffee, and then get back to studying.
But if you wish you were traveling, you can make it happen as a full-time student. I’ve focused my blog on student travel but I haven’t really defined it, a lot of people think it’s either really hard to do or involves studying abroad for months.
This blog post gives you a good idea of what’s out there for university students in terms of work and study programs and travel during your degree. Goabroad.com is a great resource for all work and study abroad programs, they even have a service that matches you up with ideal programs for your degree.
Let’s bust the whole money myth right now – travel during your degree doesn’t have to be expensive. The examples and advice below can help you so going abroad won’t cost much more than a semester in Canada.
When your daydreams become real, it’s an amazing feeling. This article shows you examples of some amazing students and gives you my best tips for finding opportunities to study and work abroad.
1. Sofia Machado (England)- Study Abroad Programs
Sofia is 21 year old student from Bogota, Columbia and she did an exchange to the University of Essex in Colchester, England (where I met her). She is currently studying Architecture and Literature. When asked why exchange is a worthwhile experience for student travelers, Sofia said it’s the best way to grow.
It changed me in exponential ways and it was probably the best experience of my entire life so far. Why? The answer is very simple: it allowed me to discover, and to be, the truest version of myself through numerous situations…you learn that life is much more than what we are used to, that the picture is way bigger, and although it can be overwhelming sometimes, there’s no better way to discover and explore the world that surrounds us.
I met Sofia for coffee to chat for this article, we ended up sitting there for a few hours, laughing and share book recommendations (Sofia recommends the famous Columbian novel – One Hundred Years of Solitude). I was really interested in hearing her thoughts about her country, as people in Canada sometimes stereotype Columbia with drugs and Pablo Escobar.
“It’s an era of change in my country. To be experiencing it is a privilege, it’s our duty to make it a country where you can feel safe and where you can continue to embrace your culture. We have to preserve that and spread the peace and love – I guess you could call me a hippy.”
These are the kinds of conversations I loved having during the study abroad program. The best part of my exchange was meeting “hippies” like Sofia, people that just love life and want to make the most of their university years.
Study Abroad Programs / Exchanges: Basic Info
The experience of studying abroad takes you completely out of your comfort zone. You have to learn how to do everything new – from buying a bus pass to finding cheap flights across Europe. As cliche as it is, you will come back from study abroad changed.
Length:Semester or Year
Price: varies, check here for cost of living for cities around the world and check with your university for tuition and course fees (normally students pay domestic tuition, all cost of living expenses, and get a small travel scholarship).
Study abroad programs can be a great option for a student travel budget. You could actually end up saving money on studying abroad if the cost of living in your study abroad country are less.
The main thing that makes study abroad expensive is travel costs – flights and visas. Most universities will provide scholarship opportunities. Here’s The University Network – one of the sites I use to look up scholarships:
Majors for study abroad: Most college majors will allow for study abroad but it is important to speak to an Academic Advisor and Exchange Advisor early on in your degree. Depending on your study abroad program, some Canadian universities will allow you to pay domestic tuition, offer you transferable courses, and freeze your GPA for that semester abroad.
More of my study abroad articles:
2. Paige Hutchinson (Malawi) – Volunteering Programs
Paige is a Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Lethbridge majoring in Anthropology. I know Paige is very passionate about this trip so I asked her to write a bit about it for this blog post –
I first heard about the Malawi Field Study from a former tripper at a Residence Life Session. She spoke of the kids she worked with, and her adventures as a student in a foreign country. Immediately I knew I had to apply for this opportunity. It was and is very expensive because of the nature of the trip and what we are doing. However, I knew it was something I wanted to do and I would make it work.
In the spring of 2018, I will be embarking on a 28 day volunteer trip to Malawi, Africa. There I and 17 other passionate students will be travelling to countless rural schools to teach children about Malaria and HIV prevention. Malawi is ranked the 6th poorest country in the world and has some of the highest rates of Malaria and HIV, two deadly diseases.
I will get two 4000 level classes out of this, so 6 credits. We are doing global health promotion with the kids at school and the adults in the community. The school component will be us deciding a topic we want to gather information on while we are there. Mostly journal entries and experience. For example, a past tripper wrote about how students with physical and mental disabilities get an education or don’t in Malawi. I will be fundraising for the trip, treated mosquito nets, school supplies and other donations until the end of April 2018.
She hasn’t left yet but I know this experience will be extremely impactful and life-changing for Paige and the communities she’s visiting. To donate to Paige’s trip click here!
Volunteer Abroad Programs: Basic Info
Length: short (even weekends) but normally between 10 days – 4 months
Cost:these are unpaid but you normally just pay your own travel, some places include accommodation and food but not all. Volunteering with a registered program is 300$ per week and up.
Another way to do work abroad is to do it in exchange for accommodation. This is typically arranged through WOOF (linked below – agricultural work for accommodation) or housesitting. It’ll take some time to search through the opportunities but once you find one it’s pretty simple to sign up, and then just book travel arrangements to get to the job.
The Canadian government’s travel and volunteering program- Canada Service Corps
Guide comparing a bunch of House Sitting Websites
International Volunteer HQ – cheapest Volunteer Abroad Programs out there, starting at around 200$ a week.
Your university might also have partnerships with companies they promote and sending a quick e-mail to your university’s International Office can help you find that. This is what Paige did and it ended up helping her heaps, she got credits and scholarships by talking to her university about the opportunities available.
I’m always skeptical of companies that charge students thousands of dollars to volunteer in developing countries. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, there are heaps of articles on how to travel ethically and avoid “voluntourism” and then take a lesson from White Saviour Barbie (she’s hilarious).
3. Michelle Casten Magbanua (Quebec) – Summer Study Abroad Programs
Michelle is a Fillipina-Canadian student studying Education and Drama at the University of Lethbridge. Last summer, she did a travel and study program called Explore in Trois Pistoles, Quebec.
Although Quebec is technically still in Canada, it’s pretty different from the rest of the country (Quebec has actually tried to become their own country a few times). For a month, Michelle lived in a local’s home, spoke french nonstop, and traveled around Eastern Canada with some other students she met in her classes. Explore also gave her university credit and the government covered most of her expenses, she only had to pay for some food and their flights.
The main downside to Explore is the timing of it. The programs are during set days in June, July, and August. Although it worked out fine for Michelle, other students might find the timing of Explore doesn’t fit their plans for their degree.
Here’s what she had to say about her experience:
It helped me experience a completely new culture and experience the language from a different perspective. I made such good lifelong friends there! I wanted to go to Montreal or Quebec city so I was a little disappointed when I got placed in a small town but it ended up being one of the greatest experiences ever, I would strongly recommend for people to sign up for smaller towns because they have absolutely no chance of getting away with English (not very many people were bilingual) and it’s more of a community between the other students. I truly believe that people learning languages should go on an exchange, it changed my life!
Summer Study Abroad Programs: Basic Info
Length: 3 weeks to 4 months
Price:varies, usually tuition + program fees + some accommodation/food for 3 weeks is 2500-4000
This isn’t the same as studying abroad for a semester, summer school abroad programs are shorter and much more structured. Unlike study abroad exchanges, these study programs only offer certain classes are available and most of the logistical details – accomodation, visa, food – are set up for you by the university.
I’ve looked into Operation Groundswells tours, they offer short educational experiences around the world. The best part of this is that the experiences are pretty specific to your interests, with trips like Amazon Adventure in Peru or Animal Conservation in South East Asia. It is a bit more expensive than most other options but Operation Groundswell offers scholarships and can help you work with your university to get academic credit for the program, although with no guarantee.
These programs are generally more expensive than studying abroad for a semester. There are two ways to find summer school abroad programs, either through your home university or through a private company. I recommend starting with your university department or international office, they’ll be able to offer cheaper trips, scholarship advice, and talk to you about getting credit for your work abroad.
4. Ranya El-Sharkawi (Taiwan) – Conferences and Forums
Ranya is a student at the University of Alberta majoring in Political Science. She attended the 2017 Global Youth Trends Forum on Youth Initiatives for Sustainable Development in Taiwan. The program was 1 week, from October 24th-October 31st, 2017. Everything except flights and spending money was covered by her university, the forum program, and scholarships.
The program allowed Ranya to experience Taiwan for a few days, while finishing off her trip with an enlightening academic experience at a conference.
Between raking salt at the Jingzaijiao Tile-Paved Salt Field, to eating fresh dragon-fruit and hibiscus at the DongShi Youth Travel Spot, to dragon-boating down the PuZi river, I experienced things that I never would have dreamed of…I had truly underestimated how much learning could be done and growth could be had when you put away your laptop and let yourself learn by play.
The most meaningful part of the second half of the conference was the dialogue and networking that occurred at our youth policy booth. At this interactive booth was a map of Canada with dry-erase markers to label provinces and territories, a board of important dates for climate change in Canada, and key articles from the United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that explicitly mentioned the environment and the land. At the booth, we were able to engage with at least one hundred other delegates and hold in-depth conversations on everything from Canada’s youth engagement and policy to our history of residential schools.
Extracurricular Conferences and Forums Abroad: Basic Info
Length: one or two days for domestic conferences, can be 1 or 2 weeks.
Cost:can be a conference fee but this might be waived or subsidized for students, your university might also have money available for students wishing to attend conferences.
As a student, you’re automatically an academic. All those papers you wrote throughout the semester could actually enable you to travel and network in another place. Either by presenting or attending a conference, you can travel to where it is and often get university funding to do so.
It may sound intimidating if you haven’t done something networking or public speaking related before but these experiences add so much to your degree and often give you lessons to take back to your classes.
Being involved in your campus community and making friends in your classes will inevitably lead you to find more conference opportunities. I’ve also found some conferences (with scholarships) through university clubs.
For starters, this leadership conference in the mountains for women in Canada looks really amazing – Network of Empowered Women.
I don’t know of any online sites that connect students with these opportunities besides University departments -if you know one send it to me and I’ll add it here!
5. Erinne Paisley (New York) – Co-op/Internships
Erinne is currently completing her degree in Peace, Conflict, and Justice and Book and Media studies at the University of Toronto. On top of her degree, Erinne has published a series of nonfiction books on youth activism called PopActivism. After her second year, she got an internship in the Big Apple to work for the NGO She’s The First!
In the summer of 2017 I travelled to New York City to complete an internship with She’s the First.She’s the First is an NGO which works to provide scholarships and support for girls around the world who are going to be the first in their families to graduate secondary school. The experience was amazing for me as I got to gain work experience abroad, live in Manhattan, and learn the inner workings of a non-profit!
Erinne’s experience goes to show that you can work during your degree, on both your own projects (her books) and in a more traditional internship setting. Both of these jobs allowed Erinne to travel, her books gave her the opportunity to do public events across Canada and obviously her New York job took her to the US. All of these experiences added to Erinne’s degree, making her courses she takes all the more meaningful through real-world application. To read more about Erinne’s PopActivism series click here!
Traveling to New York? Here’s my blog post on exploring the city for a student budget.
Work abroad, Internships abroad, and International Co-op programs: Basic Info
Length: short term placement internships will be 3 weeks+, usually co-ops and internships for Canadians are 4 months but can be extended to 12.
Price: best case scenario is you making money off the co-op, worst case is you paying money to do an unpaid internship (if you are paying top dollar to do an unpaid internship, there is probably something more affordable out there and I would keep looking unless it’s a really dreamy position).
I think Co-ops are one of the best oppurtunities out there for Canadian students that want to travel during their degree. Co-op is the Canadian university program that helps students find work or internships during their degree. Although not all opportunities are international, most co-op advisors can find some work abroad options for during your degree. Because of the cost of living in other places, you could actually be saving money by working abroad on a co-op and most co-op opportunities are paid internships.
If Co-op or internship abroad programs aren’t available through your university, there are many companies that help students find internships abroad. Some can be elusive about the actual opportunities and costs. For example, I’ve seen companies offering international students 1,300$ stipend for three months of work as summer camp instructors, while minimum wage would get you around 6,000$ for the same job. You’re paying for the program to set up the job and help you with the travel, it’s not a negative thing necessarily but I always tell people to be critical when searching programs like this.
If you’re able to bypass these interning abroad programs and find a job abroad on your own then that is definitely a cheaper option but you will have to spend more time searching on places like LinkedIn or other job sites.
6. Emily Dietrich (Europe)- Solo Student Travel
Emily Dietrich is an American student studying Business Administration at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). She’s been to a bunch of countries in Europe solo or with a couple friends including Iceland, England, Scotland, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Austria and France.
Emily is the most patriotic person I have ever met and I also loves travel so much. It’s a combination that makes her so fun to be around, she’s unapologetically American and will talk for hours about her travel plans if you let her.
I admire her ability to budget and control her finances so much. This girl is working hard to pursue her version of the American Dream – traveling outside of America. She knows what she wants and where she wants to go, but she’s realistic in knowing what she can and can’t afford.
Here’s what she had to say when I asked her why student travel is important –
One word: Empowerment. Solo travel showed me what I am actually capable of. It opened my eyes to how beautiful the world really is and has given me a new perspective on how to view it. Solo travel also gave me (and continues to give me) a countless amount of opportunities to experience new places, try new things, and meet amazing people from around the globe.
Travel Abroad: Basic Info about Solo Travel as a Student During your Degree
Length: obviously you decide, some people go for spring break, others for a month, some do a full gap year. Depends on your degree’s schedule and requirements.
varies, general low budget travel would be Asia-25-50$/day, America-75$/day, Western European cities – 50$/day, Eastern Europe -30$. Plus flights and additional 400$+ for supplies, a good travel backpack, packing cubes, walking shoes, passport renewal, visa, medical, etc.
Sometimes, you just have to book a plane ticket and let the rest sort itself out. That’s essentially what student travel is, it’s the old fashion art of wandering and exploring a brand new place. The tricky thing here is to keep your costs low as there is no program dictating what you’re spending on any specific thing, and it’s easy to get excited about crossing off your bucket list items (only to find out that those aren’t budget-friendly items).
If you’re a first-time traveler, I would not recommend going abroad for more than a month or starting in a location with huge cultural differences or a language barrier. But if you want to jump into the deep end, go for it-solo student travel is completely up to you.
My blog is mostly focused on this type of travel so a good first step is to follow me, and message me if you want specific advice or tips for going abroad during your degree. Emily and I planned a New York trip together, she says I helped her “ensure the most authentic, inexpensive experience when touring a new city”.
The most common questions I get asked is where students can go to find flight deals, so here are some of my favorite sites to look at for those:
Canada – Chris Myden’s deals (this link is for the YVR site but there’s a few other ones, just search your airport code + deals on Google)
Canada’s main budget airline – Flair Airlines
I post an instagram story with Canadian flight deals from Google flights every week, in partnership with the Nomadic Dreamers – instagram.com/kate.korte
America and some international – ScottsCheapFlights.com
America Friday Flight Deals on Nomadic Dreamers instagram story
UK – JacksFlights
All my posts on this blog are about student travel, in all it’s flavours. There are lots of companies out there for student travel but few personal blogs that give students unbiased advice without ads. If you’d like to support me, please buy me a coffee!
If you want to get more tips on making travel during your degree possible, follow me on Instagram. I love answering questions and talking to you guys about travel in my DMs.
The best place to start is usually your university’s abroad center, or asking other students, like the girls I’ve featured, about their own experiences! Thanks for reading!